— Captain Edmund Blackadder, Blackadder Goes Forth
A deliciously vicious collection of British comedies, all centering around various generations of the Blackadder family as embodied in its sole visible member, Edmund — a cynical, snide and outright caustic British nobleman (he'd be a Deadpan Snarker if he could just stop sneering) who never seems to succeed at most of his schemes, but never quite loses either (except usually at the end, where he dies horribly or wins spectacularly). Each Edmund in each generation is aided by a Bumbling Sidekick in the shape of his corresponding Baldrick, an ignorant and filthy manservant and dogsbody of unhealthy habits and preoccupations. His typical foil is a classic Upper Class Twit of far higher social station than his own, whom he is forced to serve hand and foot.Season one, written by Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis, featured Blackadder as a hapless loser, Baldrick as his more cunning servant, and a series of Shakespearean in-jokes. Much of the humour was reliant on the sort of rubber-faced comic buffoonery Atkinson would later use in Mr. Bean. The show had lots of expensive location footage but was not a ratings success. Nonetheless it was recommissioned for a second series, (albeit with a drastically reduced budget), which, after a change of direction, and writers, Grew the Beard and became extremely well-loved. The show was a smash hit from its second season onwards. Seasons two to four saw Ben Elton replacing Atkinson on the writing team, the Blackadder character repurposed as the Deadpan Snarker, and a greater emphasis on clever dialogue, running gags, and historical subversion. The retooled show became a comedy institution, although it has resisted several attempts at revival.One of the most impressive aspects of the show was the subtle differences between the various incarnations of Blackadder: the dashing but impulsive Lord Blackadder, the cool and ruthless E. Blackadder Esq and the weary, rather less evil Captain Blackadder all had much in common character-wise, but were recognisably different people. A similar variation can be seen in the Baldricks. (For some reason, the smarter Blackadder was, the lower his station. The opposite was true of Baldrick.)Besides the great writing, Blackadder's success rests on the shoulders of stars Rowan Atkinson and Tony Robinson, whose comic instincts combine to produce some of the most delightfully snarky wit that has ever been seen on television. A similarly skilled supporting cast, including Miranda Richardson, Hugh Laurie, Tim McInnerny, Rik Mayall, and Stephen Fry just added to the pleasure and the outrage.
The original four series of Blackadder are:
The Black Adder. An alternate history set during the period of the Wars Of The Roses.
Blackadder Back & Forth. The 21st Century Blackadder and Baldrick trip through time in a time machine.
All four series, but not the specials, are available in the USA on Netflix. UK Netflix doesn't have it, but Love Film! has the four main series and the Christmas Carol special.There exists an unaired pilot episode of the first series, which can with some luck be found floating around on the internet. It featured Prince Black Adder as a Deadpan Snarker and Baldrick as the idiot dogsbody the fans came to know from series two onwards (albeit not played by Tony Robinson); unfortunately this direction was not kept, and instead the characters were rewritten and the humour based on inane physical Slap Stick. Several jokes and scenes of the unaired pilot were recycled in various first series episodes.Came second in Britain's Best Sitcom.Recap still under construction, help will be much appreciated.
Artistic License - History: Many, many examples per episode, to say nothing of the show's overall track record. But hey, Rule of Funny, people! Plus, The Black Adder can explain away its inaccuracies as Henry VII doing a lousy job of rewriting history.
The first series starts with the bad guy, Henry Tudor having effectively won already. Although he loses the Battle of Bosworth Field in the first episode, he eventually ends up claiming the throne thirteen years later after Percy accidentally poisons the royal family to death, then for the real kicker he rewrites the history books to erase Richard IV's reign altogether.
Blackadder Back and Forth had the modern incarnation of Blackadder manipulate history via time travel to become King of the United Kingdom and making Baldrick his Prime Minister.
Blackadder's Christmas Carol may very well be the most extreme example: It ends with the uncharacteristically kind-hearted Ebenezer Blackadder realizing that, if he adopts the evil and selfish ways of is ancestors, his descendants will one day RULE THE UNIVERSE. If you consider the special as canon, the Blackadder family is one of the ultimate examples of this trope.
Bawdy Song: Several examples in certain episodes, from the second season onwards.
Been There Shaped History: Captain Blackadder from Blackadder Goes Forth is the only incarnation who isn't a friend/relative of a government figure. However, he did save Field Marshall Haig from a mango-wielding pygmy at Mboto Gorge. The intro to Blackadder: Back & Forth lampshades this with a montage of various incarnations throughout history, including one Desert Rat giving the bird to Winston Churchill behind his back.
The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: various examples, especially in the first two series, such as the (latest) Archbishop of Canterbury dying because a soldier bowed to him, "forgetting" that his helmet had a metre-long spike on it, or Edmund's predecessor as Chief Executioner, whose death was apparently a bureaucratic error, though Queenie seems to know more about it than she's letting on. Fantasised, though not acted out, by Edmund Blackadder III, when he asks "Baldrick, does it have to be this way? Our valued friendship ending with me cutting you up into strips and telling the prince that you walked over a very sharp cattle grid in an extremely heavy hat?"
Deadpan Snarker: Blackadder in the second and subsequent seasons; also, Melchett in the second series and Darling in the fourth.
Disproportionate Retribution: Often. Nearly all Blackadders have unpleasant reactions to people they find somewhat irritating. Queenie has ordered executions for celebrating Christmas (and then changing her mind and ordering them for those who don't give her impressive enough gifts). The first Edmund's scepticism of witchcraft also got him accused and tried (and almost burned) for it by a corrupt "witchsmeller".
High Turnover Rate: Archbishop of Canterbury in the first series, Lord High Executioner in the second. And you can probably guess who gets both those jobs, just after the High Turnover Rate is commented on in detail.
Melchett: [Unrolls scroll] List of candidates for the position of Lord High Executioner: Lord Blackadder... [Rolls up scroll]
Historical In-Joke: The entire premise of the show (particularly the first series) with many references helpfully explained on the DVD collection for those of us unfamiliar with British history. The best of these is the final episode of the third series, which explains why the moronic Prince George is remembered by history as a man of wit and character.
Hollywood History: Mostly played for laughs — the first series had enough history-based humour to prove the producers are well informed, after all. Blackadder the Third had a lot of Anachronism Stew with respect to the order of events in the Napoleonic Wars (and every notable 18th century writer alive and writing at the same time).
Identical Grandson: Prince Edmund, Lord Blackadder, E. Blackadder Esq, Captain E. Blackadder and King Edmund Blackadder III.
Also true for the Baldricks.
Possibly true for Prince George and Lieutenant George.
Also the Melchetts, Percys, Flashhearts and Kate (aka Bob).
Many different incarnations of the main characters appear in the specials as well. Over the course of the series there have been eleven versions of Blackadder (including Mac Adder), ten Baldricks, five Georges, three Queenies, five Melchetts, two Percys, three Darlings, three Flashhearts, two Bobs, two Nursies, three Mrs. Migginses (mentioned) and numerous possible links between characters (for example Percy and Darling, Melchett and Wellington etc.)
Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Titles of series 2 episodes are one word long and pertain to the subject of the episode in question ("Bells" as in wedding bells, "Chains" referring to imprisonment); series 3 uses The Noun and the Noun (to reference Sense And Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, which are set in the same era) — for example "Dish and Dishonesty"; series 4 gives all bar one its titles military ranks with double meanings - "Private Plane," "Major Star," "General Hospital," etc- the exception being "Goodbyeee...", the last one, named after a popular World War One song and referencing the episode's famous Downer Ending.
Negative Continuity: Humour is much more important than continuity (particularly between episodes), especially when you've already more or less ignored any inconvenient history, but even then there are strange moments.
In Blackadder II, the episode "Head" has Sir Walter Raleigh under sentence of death while Blackadder is the Lord High Executioner, while the very next episode, "Potato", has Sir Walter's entire time under sentence of death taking place while Blackadder is out on his voyage of discovery (of a gift good enough to get Queenie to marry him).
Then again, Queenie is fickle and known for repeatedly changing her mind about who she's sentencing to death. Presumably, Sir Walter was pardoned after Blackadder was apparently kicked out of the job.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Amy Hardwood and Nurse Mary Fletcher-Brown, and possibly Queenie (all played by Miranda Richardson).
Oddly Small Organization: In Blackadder II, the Queen appears to have only three courtiers; in Blackadder the Third, the Prince Regent has an apparent staff of two; and in Blackadder Goes Forth, Captain Blackadder has only two men under his command. In the latter case, the full number of men under Captain Blackadder's command is revealed in the final episode, although even then it is rather small.
These were mainly caused by the show lacking the budget to do the organisations justice so a suspension of disbelief is required. This is particularly evident in Back & Forth where they finally had the money to show Queenie's throne room and court in its entirety.
Rant Inducing Slight: Doesn't usually take much of a slight. The most notable example is probably that following Edmund being stripped of his titles in the last episode of series one.
Rearrange the Song: Each season uses a different arrangement of the same basic theme. The opening credits of the first season and the closing credits of the second season have lyrics, otherwise it's instrumental.
Except Series 3, which ends with only Prince George dead, and King George (who is as mad as a spoon) thinking Blackadder is Prince George (and several other prominent people also thinking this, or at least willing to play along since it means not having an idiot as regent and future king).
Turnips are mentioned a lot, from the first series on. In series three, they become Baldrick's only ambition in life. Word Of God says this is because someone confused them with parsnips, which explains the joke about their shape in series two.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: George for Percy. Interestingly, he became more of an example as time went by. In Season 3 his position as Edmund's king made the dynamic somewhat different, but season 4 made him almost identical to Percy.
Blackadder's Christmas Carol has no actual travel, but does show peeks into the past and future.
Too Dumb to Live: Everyone who isn't Edmund. Edmund himself is more like TooSurrounded by Idiotsto live: He is accidentally poisoned by Percy in Series 1; no-one is able to see through Ludvig's Queenie disguise in Series 2, not even the real Queenie; and in Series 4 he has his commanding officers like Field Marshall Haig and Melchett, who believe that the best strategy is to climb over the top and "walk very slowly towards the enemy". A strategy which has already failed at least fourteen times, no less. (Sadly Truth in Television, of course)
In Series 1, even Blackadder is Too Dumb to Live. He recruits the most evil men in the entire kingdom to help him overthrow his father and seize the throne for himself, and then is entirely surprised when they turn on him to loot everything for themselves and try to brutally kill him. He actually survives that, and is the only one in the room who DOESN'T drink the poisoned wine in the toast to his survival, then when everyone else dies (and leaves him as King of England, which he has been scheming to become for the entire series) he decides to test the wine for poison by drinking it HIMSELF.
In season two, no one — including the balladeer — cares about him much:
Blackadder, Blackadder -– his life was almost done!
Blackadder, Blackadder –- who gives a toss? No one!
Upper Class Twit: Several, most notably Lord Percy Percy [second season] and Prince Regent George (the future George IV) [third season]. Not that Percy's series 1 ancestor is any better, as he appears to be quite a bonehead.
Zany Scheme: Blackadder tends to have one for every occasion. Baldrick also cooks all sorts of these up... problem is, with his intelligence, most of them border on the ridiculous (such as in series 3's "Nob and Nobility", where he suggests to Edmund that they wait until their heads have been cut off by French revolutionaries before they make an escape, in the manner of a headless chicken). His series 1 plans were perfectly feasible and at times even brilliant. That said though, Edmund does take him up on one plan in series 4. Percy also had his share of these in the first two series.
Sometimes the situation is shown as being so desperate that Blackadder is forced to resort to one of Baldrick's plans due to the lack of any other alternative (for example, trying to rewrite in only two nights the dictionary which took Samuel Johnson ten years to write).
Blackadder's main objective over the course of each series always relates very much to the time in which he lives. In the first series (mediaeval times) he wants to take over the throne. In the second (Elizabethan) he is trying to wed Queen Elizabeth. In the third (the Industrial Revolution) he wants to make more money and in the fourth (World War I) he just wants to get out of the trenches.
Arranged Marriage: Edmund is arranged to marry the Infanta for diplomatic reasons. When the political situation changes, he ends up marrying an eight-year-old princess — which, oddly, was Truth in Television.
Bragging Theme Tune: The theme is a parody of this trope. Although it does say how wonderful Blackadder is, it does seem like the truth slips out.
Downer Ending: It's not as crippling a Tear Jerker as the end of the fourth series, but the ending of the first series is still sad. Funny, but sad at the same time.
Dramatic Unmask: Subverted in "The Black Seal", where an old and unkempt man Edmund has been travelling with transforms, apparently by magic, into a tall, striking nobleman with fine clothes and powerful-looking facial hair, asking if Edmund recognises him. Edmund does not. The man then reaches up and removes two fake-looking bushy eyebrows, revealing... two completely identical bushy eyebrows. Edmund immediately recognises him as Philip of Burgundy... The HAWK!
Early Installment Weirdness: To those familiar with the later series The Black Adder may seem a little odd. This include the different characterisation, the larger ensemble of characters, differences in the writing (Ben Elton replaced Rowan Atkinson as writer from Blackadder II onwards), as well as the significantly larger budget which allowed large sets, crowd scenes and location shooting. The later seasons would focus more on dialogue and characterisation.
Evil Versus Evil: Edmund v The Witchsmeller Pursuivant and Edmund v Philip "The Hawk" of Burgundy.
Faux Yay: Blackadder attempts this in "The Queen of Spain's Beard".
Felony Misdemeanor: In "The Archbishop", Baldrick shows off a range of priced curses signed by ecclesiastical figures, the cheapest of which reads "Dear Enemy, I curse you, and I hope something moderately unpleasant happens to you, like an onion falling on your head".
Groin Attack: Lord Yeovil in "The Foretelling": "Ah, yes, groin job!" (even though this obviously didn't actually happen).
Historical In-Joke / Up to Eleven: In "The Archbishop", at one point Baldrick mentions a high-level exemption of sin paper is signed by "both Popes" — which at first seems like an Up to Eleven joke, but around this point in history there really were two Popes (in Rome and in Avignon) due to the Great Schism. Then a true example of Up to Eleven appears in the epilogue, in which the abbess mentions that another document is signed by "all three Popes!" (There was a brief period in history where there were three Popes, but not at the point the series was set).
Kangaroo Court: Edmund's trial by the Witchsmeller Pursuivant is this Up to Eleven. Where to begin: Edmund's entire case is thrown out when the Witchsmeller convinces Prince Harry that they should ignore the testimony of a witch pleading for his life, Percy — who is defending Edmund — is accused of being a witch and is also ignored, and when Baldrick counters the Witchsmeller's assertion that carrots grow on trees, the Witchsmeller uses his knowledge of carrots to 'prove' Baldrick is a witch as well. He then produces a signed confession by a horse, an old woman Edmund has never met and an obvious poodle that he claims is Edmund's son. It is almost fitting to the ridiculousness of the situation that our heroes apparently escape with hitherto unused and never mentioned again magical powers of teleportation.
The ending reveals that this was the work of the Queen, actually being a real witch.
Large Ham: Frank Finlay as the Witchsmeller Pursuivant.
Legion of Doom: For the end of the first series, Blackadder gathers "the six most evil men in all England!" And then they promptly betray him when they learn from Edmund just how much of a big villain The Hawk / Philip of Burgundy is.
Magnificent Seven: Inverted in "The Black Seal" as Edmund gathers the six most evil men in England (plus himself) to take over the kingdom. And then they end up siding with Edmund's enemy, The Hawk / Philip of Burgundy.
My Name Is Not Durwood: The King has a habit of calling Edmund by different names (Occasionally (read: deliberately and Once an Episode) forgetting Edmund's his son at all). The King finally calls him Edmund in the last episode after he wakes from his torture-induced coma, leading to this exchange:
King Richard: Edmund!
Edmund: Father, you called me Edmund!
King Richard: Sorry, Edgar.
Off with His Head!: In the first episode Edmund beheads Richard III, mistaking him for a horse thief.
Pet the Dog: Edmund reading a bedtime story to his child wife at the end of "The Queen of Spain's Beard".
The Pete Best: BRIAN BLESSED (Richard), Elspet Gray (Gertrude), Robert East (Henry) all qualify, as none of them would return for the later, more popular incarnations of the series.
Poke the Poodle: The cheapest example of a curse sold by the Church in "The Archbishop" is "Dear enemy, I curse you, and I hope that something slightly unpleasant happens to you, like an onion falling on your head".
Precision F-Strike: Edmund gives one to Baldrick when they're about to be burned at the stake in "The Witchsmeller Pursuivant". Though in some versions the swear is apparently censored by a cough.
Baldrick: My Lord, I have a cunning plan.
Edmund: Oh, fuck off, Baldrick!
Retcon: What Henry VII did once he took power: erased all record of Richard IV's reign.
Rhetorical Request Blunder: Richard IV was telling the story of Henry II accidentally ordering the murder of Thomas Becket to his wife to contrast the situation there with how happy he is with the current Archbishop, and a couple of Mooks overheard and decided to "help". The two of them sitting at opposite ends of a very long table contributed to the misunderstanding. He initially said "Never again will I have to say 'Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?'" (he had in fact had several of the previous archbishops murdered), but had to repeat the last bit.
Edmund: Well...I wouldn't know, really...I was nowhere near him at the time...I just heard from someone that he'd, uh...uh...I mean, I don't even know where he was killed...I was completely on the opposite side of the field...I was nowhere near the cottage...not that there was a cottage...it was the river...but then I wouldn't know, of course, because I wasn't there...but, apparently, some fool cut his head off!...or, at least, killed him in some way...perhaps...took an ear off, or something...yes, in fact, I think he was only wounded...uh...or was that somebody else?...yes, I think it was...why, he wasn't even wounded!...why, did someone say he was dead?
Time Skip: In "The Black Seal", Edmund is trapped in a dungeon with an insane old man who laughs maniacally after Edmund asks if there's a way out. We are shown a cue card reading "Twelve Months Later". And the man is still laughing.
Title Drop: Parodied in the first episode when Edmund decides to take the name of The Black... Vegetable! Fortunately Baldrick suggests a better title for the series / his Lord.
Translator Buddy: The Spanish Infanta's translator (Jim Broadbent), who provides a few cheap gags.
Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Prince Harry somehow completely fails to notice that the Witchsmeller Pursuivant is on fire, until the flames cover about 100% of his body and his screaming has risen to a fairly loud volume.
Lord Melchett, Lord Melchett - intelligent and deep. Lord Melchett, Lord Melchett - a shame about the sheep!
Bold Explorer: In "Potato", the bold explorer Sir Walter Raleigh returns in triumph to England, which makes Blackadder jealous, so when Sir Walter says that even he wouldn't attempt to sail around the Cape of Good Hope, Blackadder tells the court that he's going to do just that. Of course, Blackadder isn't actually bold; his plan is to sail to France and hide out, then return and claim to have sailed around the Cape. Unfortunately, the ship captain he picked for his expedition isn't capable of making it even as far as France.
Couch Gag: Three per episode: In the opening credits, the episode title is accompanied by the object to which it refers. In the closing credits, the theme song has different lyrics and the minstrel accosts Edmund in different ways, although the last one ("Chains") has Edmund finally catch the bugger and drown him.
Everyone Is Satan in Hell: The Whiteadders are this trope, in its in-universe form. They may be getting better, now that Lord Whiteadder has broken his vow of silence and they've both discovered the joys of being drunk.
Felony Misdemeanor: In "Head", Blackadder has accidentally had Lord Farrow executed (or so he thinks) before his wife is supposed to meet him one last time, so is forced to impersonate him by putting a bag over his head. In a meeting with Lady Farrow beforehand, he tries to prepare her for this by saying her husband has 'changed', which she takes to mean he's been tortured:
Freudian Slippery Slope: Blackadder greeting his wealthy aunt and uncle in "Beer" (though it's likely he was doing it on purpose to less-than-subtly drop hints that he wanted to discuss his inheritance):
"Well, I hope you had a pleasant inheritance...Did I say 'inheritance'? I meant journey... If you'd just like to help yourself to a legacy... a chair."
Friendship Moment: Hilariously subverted in "Money": Percy loyally offers his life savings to get Blackadder out of debt, only to have Blackadder casually reveal that he has long since stolen and spent the savings in question. And even BALDRICK was in on it.
God Save Us From The Queen: Blackadder II features Queen Elizabeth I as a petulant schoolgirl. A petulant schoolgirl with power of life and death over the whole of the Kingdom of England.
Oddly enough, this portrayal actually seems much more inspired by her sister Mary, who was quite free with ordering executions and was nicknamed Bloody Mary.
Groin Attack: Twice in "Bells": Blackadder kicks Percy down there, and shortly afterwards, Percy shoots Baldrick with an arrow.
Also part of the plan Blackadder and Melchett use to escape their German captors in "Chains."
Blackadder: Trust me to get the hard one!
Have You Come To Gloat: When the gang wrongly executes a man, Percy is forced to think of an excuse on the spot as to why he can't have visitors. All he can come up with is this trope.
Hello Sailor: The episode "Potato" is full of jokes about gay sailors, because it revolves around explorers and sea voyages. In "Money," Baldrick winds up being pimped out to sailors down at the docks.
In My Language That Sounds Like: Edmund falls prey to the English-Spanish "embarrassed is tener vergüenza but embarazada means pregnant" while under interrogation by the Spanish Inquisition torturer in "Chains".
Mrs Ploppy: I'm the last meal cook, sir. The prisoners may ask me for what they fancy for their last meal.
Blackadder: And you cook for them what they desire.
Mrs. Ploppy: Oh, yes, sir. Provided they ask for sausages. Otherwise, they tend to get a tiny bit disappointed. Sausage is all I got.
Only Sane Man: Along with Blackadder, Melchett also tends to steer towards this, obviously humouring Queenie throughout the series. He's still considerably more loopy, however, especially once we learn about a past affair involving a sheep... that wasn't quiteas it seemed.
Smoking Hot Sex: In "Bells", after "Bob" reveals her actual gender by flashing her boobs at Edmund, we jump ahead to two minutes later...and they're sitting together smoking old-time churchwarden pipes.
Speech Impediment: Partial meta example — Rowan Atkinson has a stutter, especially having trouble with words that begin with hard consonants such as "Bob". This gives us his wonderful plosive pronunciation of "Bobb", which Stephen Fry has on record described as "sexy".
Spoof Aesop: The closing ballads occasionally fall into this category with such valuable pieces of advice as 'Don't borrow money from a homicidal omnisexual bishop' and 'Don't try and take over the throne of England'.
Spotting The Thread: When Prince Ludwig, something of a master of disguise, tries to infiltrate Queen Elizabeth's dress party disguised as Nursie dressed as a cow. He is found out because his costume is too good; Nursie has some... interesting interpretations of how a cow should look.
To quote: "Prince Ludwig is a master of disguise, while Nursie is an insane old woman with an udder fixation."
All Part of the Show: Prince George believes that an anarchist throwing a bomb at him is part of a play. Then again, he usually thinks the events on stage are real and regularly orders actors arrested for murder.
Anachronism Stew: The series is set in the Regency era (1811-1820) yet features William Pitt The Younger who died in 1806 (and was actually 24 when he was elected), Samuel Johnson finishing his dictionary, which happened in 1755, the French Revolution (1790s), planning the Battle of Trafalgar, which was in 1805, and ending slavery as a radical idea even though it was done in England itself (but not the rest of the empire) in 1772.
Buffy Speak: Blackadder: "Disease and depravation stalk our land like... two giant... stalking things." Also: "We're about as similar as two completely dis-similar things in a pod."
Captain Morgan Pose: The actors teach The Prince Regent to do a pose while they are training him in public speaking.
The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: The returning officer and lone voter in Dunny-on-the-Wold apparently died, respectively, from accidentally brutally cutting his head off while combing his hair, and accidentally brutally stabbing himself in the stomach while shaving.
Creator Cameo: The anarchist who attempts to assassinate Prince George in "Sense and Senility" is played by series co-writer Ben Elton.
Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: "Baldrick, believe me. Eternity in the company of Beelzebub, and all his hellish instruments of death, will be a picnic compared to five minutes with me... and this pencil... if we cannot replace this dictionary."
Death by Sex: Prince George in "Duel and Duality", despite Blackadder's best efforts to prevent it.
Election Night: "Dish and Dishonesty" features one of the definitive parodies of TV election coverage.
Mr. Fanservice: Hugh Laurie in make-up and tights has been known to make a lot of straight women (and a few lesbians) perk up.
Face Palm: Blackadder, when Lord Topper reveals his disguise.
Fictional Political Party: Going hand-in-hand with the Election Night trope (above), the episode "Dish and Dishonesty" uses these, too, in its parody of British election conventions. After the constituent of rotten borough Dunny-on-the-Wold (consisting of nothing more than a tiny plot of land, many farm animals and only one voter) suddenly died, Prince Regent and Blackadder decide to run Baldrick as their own candidate and tip Parliament in their favor. Baldrick runs on behalf of the "Adder Party", a name which becomes much more appropriate when it turns out that Blackadder was both the borough's Returning Officer and lone voter after both died in freak "accidents". Other fictitious parties on the ballot included "Keep Royalty White, Rat Catching and Safe Sewage Residents' Party" and the "Standing at the Back Dressed Stupidly and Looking Stupid Party" (whose party line stands for "the compulsory serving of asparagus at breakfast, free corsets for the under-fives and the abolition of slavery" - though the last one was just put in as a joke).
The last two are a Shout Out to two real minor perennial candidates at British elections at the time the show was broadcast — Bill Boaks, who usually stood as something like "Democratic Monarchist Road Safety White Resident", and Screaming Lord Sutch of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party.
Informed Attribute: Done deliberately — Blackadder and Baldrick both reference Prince George's disgusting obesity — as the historical figure indeed was — even though he's played by the lanky Hugh Laurie.
Blackadder: I want to be remembered when I'm dead. I want books written about me. I want songs sung about me. And then, hundreds of years from now, I want episodes of my life to be played out weekly at half past nine by some great heroic actor of the age.
Life's Work Ruined: Double Subverted in "Ink and Incapability" in a very odd way. It turns out that Dr Johnson's dictionary was never burned at all, despite what Blackadder and Baldrick spent most of the episode believing; the book that was burned was in fact Blackadder's novel, which both he and Johnson thought was a masterpiece. The dictionary then gets burned by Baldrick while he's making a fire.
My Name Is Not Durwood: The Prince Regent calls Blackadder "Bladder" at the end of "Sense and Senility", even after Blackadder tells him not to.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: A fatal example of this occurs in the last episode, when Prince George screws up Blackadder's plan to save his life by blabbing about the whole thing in front of the Duke of Wellington, who intended to kill him. Wellington doesn't actually believe him, but gets so pissed off at the fact that the Prince, who is disguised as Blackadder and vice-versa is acting disrespectfully to his "master" that he whips out his pistol and shoots him dead.
Nobility Marries Money: The episode "Amy and Amiability" was headed in this direction. Prince George, who was bankrupted by Parliament at the beginning of the season, attempted to marry the daughter of a wealthy industrialist for her money.
Phony Newscast: Vincent Hanna (a BBC election correspondent at the time of filming) appears as "his own great-great-grandfather", reporting on the Dunny-on-the-Wold by-election for The Country Gentleman's Pig Fertilizer Gazette. This is treated exactly as a TV broadcast (although he is broadcasting out of the window to the crowd), even though it's set in the 18th century.
The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: One plot in ‘Dish and Dishonesty’ revolves around Edmund getting the Member of Parliament with the worst attendance record – Sir Talbot Buxomley, MP for Dunny—on—the—Wold – to turn up to work and vote in the Prince Regent’s (Read: Edmund’s) favour. Edmund recalls that the one time Sir Talbot did manage to attend the House of Commons “He passed water in The Great Hall and passed out in the Speaker’s chair.”
Playing Cyrano: Blackadder acts as this to Prince George in "Amy and Amiability".
Pocket Protector: Parodied in "Duel and Duality," in which a cigarillo case stops a cannonball.
And parodied again when shortly afterwards Prince George also gets shot, seems to die, wakes up shouting he also has one... then realizes he left his on the dresser. THEN he dies.
Right Behind Me: In "Sense and Senility", Blackadder has finally had enough of the Prince's stupidity and leaves (with, of course, a parting insult for Baldrick). After he walks out Baldrick mutters "Goodbye, you pasty-faced, big-nosed, rubber-necked bastard." He slowly looks up just as Blackadder re-enters the room, having been in earshot the whole time.
Sequential Symptom Syndrome: In "Nob and Nobility", someone takes a suicide pill and recites his own symptoms as he experiences them. Hilariously, he didn't realise that he had taken it, and was completely unaware of the symptoms, himself.
The Scottish Trope: "Sense and Senility": the two actors have to perform a silly, overly-long superstitious ritual to exorcise evil spirits whenever Blackadder says "Macbeth". Exactly how the ritual goes is a subject of hot debate in the fandom as Angrish makes the words unclear: one suggestion is "Aargh! Hot potato, orchestra scores, plucked to make amends (HONK!)"
Shout Out: To Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal in the segment where Prince George and Blackadder are discussing poverty in "Sense and Senility".
Baldrick: There's a new star in the heavens tonight. Another freckle on the nose of the giant pixie.
Stupid Boss / Too Dumb to Live: Prince George actually seems dumber than Baldrick, who considers him "a clot". Also too dumb to live are Topper and Smedley; Blackadder even lampshades the stupidity of accepting wine from someone who thinks you are about to torture or disgrace him.
Villain Protagonist: Mr. E. Blackadder likely qualifies as one, being an implied serial killer (during the election episode), as well as having two famous actors arrested and executed for treason in "Sense and Senility", sending Amy Hardwood to the noose in "Amy and Amiability" and killing Topper and Smedley in "Nob and Nobility". So he's directly responsible for killing or having killed at least seven people during the course of six episodes (although Amy had tried to kill him first).
Blackadder: So, Counsel, with that summing up in mind, what are my chances, do you think?
George: Well, not good I'm afraid. As far as I can see from the evidence, you're as guilty as a puppy sitting beside a pile of poo.
Blackadder: (bitterly) ...Charming.
While it's not intentional, Blackadder is mighty amused when Melchett says his new girlfriend (actually George in drag) has "more spunk than most girls".
Amoral Attorney: Blackadder wants to hire a very good one for his court-martial.
Edmund: I remember Massingbird's most famous case — the Case of the Bloody Knife. A man was found next to a murdered body. He had the knife in his hand, thirteen witnesses had seen him stab the victim and when the police picked him up he said to them, 'I'm glad I killed the bastard'. Massingbird not only got him acquitted, he got him knighted in the New Year's Honour's list and the relatives of the victim had to pay to have the blood washed out of his jacket.
Analogy Backfire: For Darling, when trying to convince Blackadder that he is not a spy in General Hospital:
Darling: ...I'm as British as Queen Victoria!
Blackadder: So, your mother is German, your father is half-German and you're married to a German?
"Went to one of the great universities, I suppose. Oxford...Cambridge...Hull." This turned out to be a test. I mean, Oxford's a complete dump!
Inverted in "Corporal Punishment" where Melchett opens the court-martial of Blackadder by ranting at length about how he shot Melchett's prized pigeon, Speckled Jim, and then lists the most serious charge (disobeying orders) as an afterthought.
Artistic License - Law: "Corporal Punishment" was this Turned Up to Eleven. The judge and prosecutor both have clear conflicts of interest in the trial, to the point where the judge is actually called to testify for the prosecution. Surprisingly, though, the Minister of War realizes that the whole trial was a farce, and reverses the decision.
Butt Monkey: Three butt monkeys, actually. Capt. Darling is butt monkey to Capt. Blackadder and Gen. Melchett, Blackadder is butt monkey to Melchett, and Baldrick is butt monkey to Blackadder.
Callback In 'Private Plane' Flashheart says that the only qualification for being a navigator is 'knowing your arse from your elbow' to which Blackadder replies 'That rules Baldrick out'. Later on Baldrick says they should join the airforce as its better than 'just sitting around here on our elbows'.
Charge Into Combat Cut: One of the most famous examples of this trope, in which the scene fades from Blackadder and co. charging over the trench to a field full of poppies.
Comically Missing the Point: In the final episode, Darling begs Melchett not to send him to the front lines because he doesn't want to die; Melchett just thinks Darling is getting sentimental and saying "I'll miss you too much". Of course, considering what happens next, "comical" might not be the right word...
Creator In-Joke: In "General Hospital", Blackadder says that he tricked Nurse Mary by naming three great universities (Oxford, Cambridge and Hull), when in fact only two of them are great. Melchett responds "Quite — Oxford's a complete dump!" Rowan Atkinson attended Oxford, while Steven Fry attended Cambridge, the two universities having a centuries-long rivalry.
Credits Gag: "Tyrannosaurus Rex" credited as "Dinosaur".
Drama Bomb Finale: In a rare highly successful example at the very end of season four.
Downer Ending: Series four finale; even more remarkable is that the same basic ending was played for laughs in series one and two. Reality Subtext is to blame for the Mood Whiplash. To put it into perspective, it aired on Remembrance Sunday with no complaints whatsoever. (Well, almost none - one woman wrote to the Radio Times to ask why a comedy would want to show people the terrible things that happened, reminding her of her own husband. Another woman wrote in to Points of View thanking them for such a beautiful tribute.) Though the original ending planned, as seen here, wasn't nearly as dramatic or moving — general consensus is that it was a good thing they changed it.
Entertainingly Wrong: Blackadder deducing Nurse Mary is a German spy. His reasoning is perfectly sound and the suspect had already admitted to using Obfuscating Stupidity in front of others. Unfortunately for them both the true 'spy' was someone else altogether.
Baron von Richthoven: Ah, and Lord Flashheart! This is indeed an honour! Finally the two greatest gentlemen flyers in the world meet! Two men of honour, who have jousted together in the cloud-strewn glory of the skies... face to face at last! How often have I rehearsed this moment of destiny in my dreams! The valour we two encapsulate, the unspoken nobility of our comradeship, the— *BOOM HEADSHOT*
I Ate What?: In the last episode, Blackadder learns that the "coffee" he's been drinking for years was just hot mud sweetened with Baldrick's dandruff. His reaction is one of mild annoyance, at most.
Implausible Deniability: Spoofed in "Corporal Punishment". As his Bumbling Sidekick Baldrick is being called to the stand to testify in Captain Blackadder's trial, Blackadder tells him to "deny everything." First question:
George (as Blackadder's attorney): You are Private Baldrick? Baldrick: No! George: ...Oh. Um... But you are Captain Blackadder's batman? Baldrick: No! Blackadder:(headdesks) George: Come on, Baldrick, can't you be a bit more helpful? It's me! Baldrick: No, it isn't!
I Owe You My Life: Apparently Blackadder had saved Field Marshal Haig's life at Mboto Gorge and was told to call if he ever needed a favour. Unfortunately, when he does so to try and get out of the Big Push in "Goodbyeee", the best Haig can do is to suggest he feign insanity... which Blackadder had already tried to no avail.
It should also be pointed out that Blackadder "saved" him from a "pygmy woman with a sharp mango".
I Want My Mommy: When Captain Blackadder and Baldrick are in the hands of the Germans:
Baldrick: I want my mum.
Blackadder: Yes, a maternally outraged gorilla would be a useful ally.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Blackadder, to a very slight extent. He's still not remotely a nice person, but he can bring himself to feel sympathy for Darling and wish the others good luck in the final episode. Also, despite being a soldier, he is the only Blackadder in the four seasons not to commit murder — unless you count Speckled Jim and Mboto Gorge, where they "massacred the peace-loving pigmies of the Upper Volta and stole all their fruit" according to Darling. He also seems genuinely horrified when he learns he's sent an innocent woman to the firing squad in "General Hospital"; hard to imagine his heartless Regency ancestor being so shaken. He is genuinely complimentary regarding George's painting ability too (though planning to use it for his own ends). Sincere compliments from a Blackadder are as rare as something very rare indeed.
Blackadder: George! These are brilliant! Why didn't you tell us about these before?
George: Well, you know, one doesn't want to blow one's own trumpet.
Blackadder (impressed): You might at least have told us you had a trumpet.
It's worth noting that this Blackadder, in contrast with his forebears, is uninterested in scheming his way to power or wealth. He's merely trying to save himself. Too bad Failure Is the Only Option.
Though lest you get too fond of him, it's better to remember that he made his career in the military by killing unarmed civilians in Africa, and doesn't show a hint of remorse for being an instrument for the ugliest side of the British colonialism.
Also Field Marshall Haig, seen knocking toy soldiers into a trench, then sweeping them up into a dustpan and dumping them on the floor.
Miles Gloriosus: George is very gung-ho about the war and can't wait for the "big push" and the chance to give the Huns what for... until the end of the final episode, when he realizes he doesn't want to die.
The Mole: "General Hospital" involves the search for a German spy who's apparently leaking battle plans from a field hospital. It actually turns out that patient George is inadvertently doing this in letters to his Uncle Hermann in Munich.
Obfuscating Stupidity: George might be an example of this, as in "Private Plane" he demonstrates a distressing combination of wooden-headed stupidity and remarkably keen insight.
Melchett: Do you remember what happened to Flossie?
George: You shot him.
Melchett: That's right. It was the kindest thing to do after he'd been run over by that car.
George: By your car, sir.
Melchett: Yes, by my car, but that too was an act of mercy when you remember that that dog had been set on him.
George: Your dog, sir.
Nurse Mary, in "General Hospital", uses a mild version of this. ("My fluffy-bunny act", as she calls it.)
Oh Crap: Captain Darling's face when he realises Melchett is sending him to the Front, just in time for a major offensive. Melchett, of course, only thinks that Darling is reluctant to leave him, even when Darling gets down on his knees and just about begs.
And then there's the scene where Blackadder is in court and he realises who the judge is...
Blackadder: I wouldn't be too confident if I were you. Any reasonably impartial judge is bound to let me off.
Soldiers At The Rear: Darling is happy to be General Melchett's aide-de-camp because that way he doesn't have to be in the trenches. In the last episode he gets sent there anyway.
Sudden Downer Ending: Blackadder Goes Forth is set in the trenches of WWI, and the writers didn't want to be accused of making light of one of the most tragic moments in British history, so the last episode becomes steadily more serious and sombre as all of the characters but General Melchett (and he's quite oblivious to sending Darling to his doom) are ordered over the top in what is assumed to be a suicide charge. While the cast are all shown to have died in The Black Adder and Blackadder II, this time it's not played for comedy at all.
suspiciously specific denial: "we haven't received any messages and captain Blackadder definitely did not eat this delicious plump breasted pigion."
Sweet Polly Oliver: Bob, in "Major Star". Subverted in that absolutely no-one but the General is remotely fooled, and in a later episode she is openly sleeping with Flasheart despite still using the identity.
Given that Chaplin gets his own back at the end of the episode (by agreeing to free distribution of his films among the British Army on the proviso that Blackadder is the projectionist), this may be more an affectionate homage than anything else — every other character loves Charlie Chaplin.
It's also a running joke throughout all the series that Blackadder hates any character considered by modern day to be a genius; Shakespeare, Walter Raleigh, Samuel Johnson etc.
Captain Blackadder: Yes... take down a telegram, Bob. To Mr. Charlie Chaplin, Sennett Studios, Hollywood, California. Congrats STOP Have found only person in world less funny than you STOP Name Baldrick STOP Signed E. Blackadder STOP Oh, and put a P.S.: please, please, please STOP ... Captain Darling: We received a telegram from Mr Chaplin himself at Sennett Studios: Twice nightly filming of my films in trenches: excellent idea STOP But must insist that E. Blackadder be projectionist STOP P.S. Don't let him ever... STOP.
Unfortunate Item Swap: In "Corporal Punishment", Blackadder writes two letters — one asking George for a sponge bag, another asking the brilliant lawyer Hugh Massingbird for legal aid. Of course, Baldrick gets the letters mixed up.
Unfortunate Names: Captain Darling. The creators said that as soon as they came up with the name for him, he went from a totally empty character to one who'd been steeped in a lifetime's worth of bitterness and resentment from being called "darling" by everyone.
Unwanted Rescue: In "Private Plane", Blackadder and Baldrick are captured by the Germans and told they'll be spending the rest of the war teaching home economics to a bunch of German convent girls. They're looking forward to this, until George and Flashheart turn up to "save" them. Flashheart actually works out that they were trying to get away from the front and forces them both to come with him.
Verbal Tic: General Melchett's trademark "Baa!" has been variously attributed to madness, asthma and an ancestor's illicit relationship with Flossie the sheep. Stephen Fry has said it really originated from his imagining that Melchett had haemorrhoids and would yell out every time he sat down or got up.
Darling: Thank God. We lived through it. The Great War, 1914 to 1917.
In the scene just prior:
George: Well, really, this is brave, splendid and noble...Sir?
Blackadder: Yes, Lieutenant?
George: I'm...scared, sir.
What Happened to the Mouse?: We never do find out if Blackadder or Darling were able to prevent Nurse Mary's firing squad execution in time.
Who's on First?: Captain Darling gets this a lot. In particular, "Major Star" has a scene where General Melchett is rehearsing what he's going to say to his current crush (who's actually George in a dress) in front of Captain Darling, repeatedly referring to "Georgina" as "darling".
Being Good Sucks: Oh boy! Everyone and their mother is exploiting Ebenezer in Chrismas Carol.
Book Ends: Blackadder becomes king at the end of Blackadder: Back and Forth. The entire series began with this being his primary objective.
Call Back: In Blackadder Back and Forth Baldrick references Blackadder's line "as cunning as a fox that's just been appointed professor of cunning at Oxford University" from the end of Blackadder Goes Forth.
Credits Gag: In Back in Forth, the dinosaur is played by "Tyrannosaurus Rex" and the Scottish Hordes are played by "Hordes of Scots."
Decapitation Presentation: Cavalier Years: Baldrick's cunning plan to substitute a pumpkin instead of a head sort of fell apart when this moment came.
Extreme Doormat: Actually Blackadder himself in Christmas Carol, starting off as kindy generous soul (who is naturally endlessly exploited for charity). A visit from a Christmas Spirit inadvertently reveals his legacy will be destroyed due to his meekness, leading him to become an even crueller schemer than his descendants.
Four Star Badass: One future Blackadder is the ruthless and brilliant Admiral of a thinly-disguised version of the Empire. He seizes power.
Hot Consort: Marian in Blackadder Back & Forth, to King Edmund III.
Shout Out: In Blackadder Back & Forth the brief space battle is between two Earth Defence Directorate starfighters and a Draconian fighter.
Smarter Than You Look: Subverted with Baldrick in Chrismas Carol. He can't write, read or count, but he's smart enough to question Ebenezer's Stupid Good behavor and points out that the freeloaders (especially the obese orphans) don't need what Ebenezer gives them.
Throw the Dog a Bone: Things finally end happily for (one descendant of) Edmund and Baldrick in Blackadder: Back & Forth as they alter time and history for fame and fortune. In Christmas Carol, a more distant descendent conquers the universe.